In Sri Lanka, warmth and good weather can be found year-round on the different parts of the island. Thanks to the country’s relatively small size, a getaway spent chasing pockets of favorable weather can be a great way to see the entire island’s many highlights. Below, we've put together a guide for planning when to visit each region of Sri Lanka.

Fast facts

  • Sri Lanka’s coastline remains at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit year-round
  • The mountain regions generally receive the most rain
  • November is the wettest month on most parts of the island
  • The central part of the island is regarded as the “dry zone”
  • Throughout the island (and year), expect spontaneous rain bursts
  • Monsoon season in the southwest lasts from May-September; in the north-eastern area, it lasts from October-January

Overview

Since the weather in Sri Lanka generally remains consistent throughout the year, travelers should look to the country’s various regions and religious holidays, festivals, and celebrations when deciding when to visit. Keep in mind, you'll experience variations in weather depending on the geography — whether you're along the coast, in the mountains, or in the central dry season. 

The Central "Dry Zone"

Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa

When traveling to an area known as the dry zone, it’s not unreasonable to count on it being dry. This region best meets expectations from January-February and June-September, with highest temperatures (30/86 degrees) cropping up in April and May. Such heat should come as no surprise for an island with such a close proximity to the equator, nor should impromptu rain showers throughout the year.

Popular destinations: Sigiriya, Jethawanaramaya Stupa, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, and Anuradhapura.

The Mountains

Tea plantation near Hatton
Tea plantation near Hatton

With the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal surrounding Sri Lanka, monsoon winds gust over the island in seasons. May through September is when the mountainous parts of the land receive the most consistent rainfall, influenced by the winds of the Indian Ocean. Still, intermittent dry periods aren’t uncommon, and costs can be lower at this time, so travelers should be prepared for both rain and heat if visiting during this season. 

One benefit of the higher elevation, more persistent rains and cooler temperatures is that it makes for ideal tea-growing conditions. Many think of tea plantations when they think of Sri Lanka, and travelers shouldn’t overlook the opportunity to lay eyes on the terraced magnificence of this cultural gem.

Popular destinations: Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Hatton, and Adam’s Peak

East Coast of Sri Lanka

Traditional fishing boats docked at Arugam Bay
Traditional fishing boats docked at Arugam Bay

Eastern Sri Lanka may be the hottest part of the country, but it’s also arguably the most steeped in tradition. It’s filled with fishing villages, quiet beach escapes, colorful markets, and natural beauty, and is home to the breathtaking natural harbor Trincomalee. Those seeking a romantic escape might be drawn to the more sparsely populated nature of eastern Sri Lanka 

Popular destinations: Arugam Bay, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Kumana National Park

Southwest Coast of Sri Lanka

Evening in Galle
Evening in Galle

Galle and its surrounding beaches share similar weather patterns, remaining consistently humid, hot, and sunny — but also subject to periodic squalls. This southwestern region is considered the wet zone, but that doesn’t stop sunbathers from enjoying its quiet, blue waters and surfers from riding its easy breaks. The country’s capital, Colombo, is also found in this part of the island and is the hub of many festivals religious in nature.

Popular destinations: Galle, Hambantota, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, and Mirissa

Special thanks to Adam Platt-Hepworth for sharing his expertise.